Fly Fishing: Leader Construction (Fiddle Farting Around)

As a beginning fly fisher, let’s say you decide you are going fishing tomorrow. The mental process to have, that I suggest, is to ask yourself….what shape is my gear in? How did I leave it from the last outing; yesterday or two months ago……how did you leave your gear?

Oliver Heublin (Artist) SB

The efficient way to handle this, is to access your gear the night before. Do you have anything in short supply? Flies, leader material, a piece of often used gear (pliers, nippers, spools of leader material, etc.). This is particularly important if a friend is picking you up at 0-Dark-30. Have your gear together and ready to go. If you are meeting a guide have your gear together. Don’t waste valuable time with a friend or guide putzing around with prep that should have been completed the night or days before. I have fished with people that waste my time and theirs rigging up before we venture forth. Obsessive or not, I consider a half hour + of prep time stream side/lake side that should have been done the night before inconsiderate of friends or guide or both.

So, this brings me to leader construction. Assess your leader for length, taper and wind knots. What type of fly line (Floater, Intermediate, Type II etc.)? What type of fishing? What type of likely fly patterns? Know how to piece together the sections of leader in order to construct the proper length of leader. That means know the proportions of a leader and the knots to join the sections together. (MnFlyFishing)

For the beginner the formulas that are often used are  50%>>>>25%>>>>25%   or 60%>>>>20%>>>>20%. Here is a good explanation on constructing leaders for freshwater & saltwater. ActiveAngler

My advice: assess your gear the night before. Be ready. Don’t putz around the morning before and burn daylight. Become proficient in piecing together your own leaders. Having to run to the fly shop the morning of an outing to buy a new tapered leader or a spool of mono is poor planning and again burning valuable daylight. Do not do that with a friend, who was prepared the night before. Part of the fun of fly fishing is fiddling and fondling the gear. However, don’t fumble around with the gear. Get to the point…fish.

2 Responses to “Fly Fishing: Leader Construction (Fiddle Farting Around)”

  1. 1 SwittersB
    September 11, 2010 at 16:59

    If you buy tapered leaders, note on the bottom of the pack what the tippet poundage is and what the length. If if is 3.5# or similar, at 9′ then that is pretty much good to go.

    If it is, like some, 7′ at say 6#, then you could use that and add (surgeon’s knot/blood knot) 24″ of a lighter mono as the tippet. You could go with the 7′ if fishing streamers or nymphing but, if fishing dries, I would stay out around 9′ As you break off or cut off flies, keep track of the leader as you compare it to the length of your rod (your rod is probably around 9′). If the leader is running 6′ to 7′ and you are normally fishing a 9′ leader then take out that spool of 4# mono and pull off about 18″ to 24″ and surgeon knot it on. Sinking lines can get away with a 3′ to 6′ leader. Even there if the leader gets too short, say 10# thickness, then add a few feet of 6# and good to go.

    You notice I mentioned thickness. It is not an exact art, but if you handle mono enough you get a sense by touch and sight how thick the mono is. At least have a general idea, given the varities of brands, how 4# compares to 6# to 10# to 20#, etc. Just keep that leader section called the tippet repaired and if you break off up into the middle of the leader, then add two sections of different thicknesses to maintain the somewhat taper of the original tapered leader. Good luck.SB/SM


  2. 2 Fly to Fly
    September 11, 2010 at 11:45

    Amen to that!

    My weekend off and I am checking gear. Oh, and do not make me wait while you wiggle into them waders, (said for the benefit of someone who never has them on unless it is necessary!) And while you are at it, do not forget to bring a bottle of water….I do not like giving you half of mine….(not wader gal, she is always prepared sans waders). Good articles Gary!

    Great summer!



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